New project aims to encourage people to quit smoking

SmokeFreeBrain brings together experts in toxicology, pulmonary medicine, neuroscience, and behavioral therapy, as well as health economics and health informatics. They are examining the effectiveness of anti-smoking strategies aimed at high-risk groups in high-middle-income countries, such as unemployed adults, people with chronic pulmonary disease and asthma patients – as well as the general population in lower-middle-income countries.

“Smoking is the largest avoidable cause of lung diseases, morbidity and premature mortality worldwide,” says project coordinator Panagiotis Bamidis. “The purpose of our project is to deliver new knowledge regarding the cost-effectiveness of innovative smoking cessation interventions. This approach should improve the efficiency of public policy strategies aiming to reduce smoker numbers and therefore help to prevent lung diseases.”

Broad approach

The project is evaluating the effectiveness of public health service announcements which seek to encourage people to quit. It is also looking into the use of electronic cigarettes, both with and without nicotine. In addition, researchers have designed a specific neuro-feedback intervention protocol to combat addiction. The use of social media, mobile apps and text messaging (collectively named So-Lo-Mo) to help people stop is also being assessed, as is the value of drug-based approaches to curb tobacco cravings.

SmokeFreeBrain, which is scheduled to finish its work in October 2018, is currently piloting a number of interventions based in hospitals and laboratories in eight different countries – Bulgaria, Greece, Spain, Italy, Cyprus, Serbia, the United Kingdom and Taiwan.

More than 500 people are participating in these interventions across Europe and Taiwan. The smokers are being assessed over a year, with the aim of producing solid, quantifiable data about the effectiveness of the different approaches.

For example, the So-Lo-Mo approach is being tested in Spain and Taiwan and includes the development of mobile games and applications to encourage people to stop smoking. The drug interventions are being piloted in Spain, Serbia and Greece, while the use of e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation aid is being assessed in the United Kingdom.

Meanwhile, preliminary results show that the neuro-feedback intervention protocol can cause lasting changes in the brain cortex as people try to stop smoking.

Informing policy

“Dissemination and exploitation activities are key to the success of SmokeFreeBrain, as they will engage stakeholders while spreading the knowledge and experience gained in the project – maximizing its benefit for the European economy and society,” explains Bamidis. “The results and the outputs of the project will target the research community as well as smoking cessation clinics and policymakers.”

In addition, the project aims to transform its experiences and results into real policy actions. The goal is to shape clinical treatment and policy advice that favors scientifically evaluated and economically cost-efficient interventions.

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